Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that negotiators still haven’t reached agreement on language to expand Medicare benefits and lower the price of prescription drugs, two major pieces of their agenda, but insisted “a final deal is within reach.”
Schumer signaled to reporters that Democrats are much closer to agreement on climate provisions, which he promised would make a “robust” contribution to addressing global warming.
But he acknowledged that two of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) top priorities, expanding Medicare and cutting the cost of prescription drugs, remain unresolved.
The other holdups are a disagreement over creating a Medicaid-type program to expand health care coverage in states that opted out of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the length of a national paid family leave program, and a proposal to empower the IRS to broadly review banking activity to find unreported tax obligations.
“I believe that we will get this done and we will get it done soon,” Schumer said after a caucus meeting. “No one ever said that passing transformational legislation like this would be easy but are on track to get it done.
“There is universal consensus in our caucus that we have to come to agreement despite the differences in views on many issues,” he added. “I believe a final deal is within reach.”
Schumer said negotiators are making good progress on the climate provisions, despite a recent decision to drop the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which was a top priority of progressives who want to tackle carbon emissions.
“There’s going to be a very strong, robust climate package. And our goal is to meet the president’s goal and there are different ways to get there,” he said.
But he acknowledged the dispute between Sanders and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) over expanding Medicare benefits and empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices remains unresolved.
“We’re working on both those issues now. As I said, we’re making progress. We’re not there yet on either of them but it’s important to do,” he said.
Schumer said earlier in the press conference that expanding Medicare benefits is one of his top priorities telling reporters: “I believe strengthening Medicare is very, very important.”